When I think back at Chiang Mai a wave of serenity embraces me. While we were there I kept joking that it’s the perfect place if you’re on the quest for spiritual rediscovery but you’re not ready yet to give up the perfect soy flat white. Being back in London I find myself often reminiscing about the blissful days we spent there.
After a long night on the night train from Bangkok
(long for some, as I slept like a baby) and a few battles with the cockroaches (to be fair they were quite small and the train was overall clean) we arrived in Chiang Mai.
The night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was eye opening to say the least. It was the first time I saw my lovely cute girlfriend turn into a vicious serial killer of cockroaches. Apart from that, looking back I can say that the time spent in Chiang Mai was my favourite of all of Thailand.
We didn’t have much planned apart from getting lost in this beautiful town.
We went on long walks past Wat Phra Singh
(below). Oh and make sure you go to Doi Suthep
as it’s absolutely stunning! Here
are some of the many temples you can visit.
If you’re there over the weekend, I would recommend the Saturday Walking Street
. We had delicious food and it’s a fun place to go to even if it gets so insanely packed that once you’re on the street there’s no turning back and you have to go with the crowd.
The town was okay, nothing really impressed me; but it made me feel most welcome and it would be the first place I’d love going back to in Thailand.
Enjoyed deliciously sweet coffee
We spent our days eating at amazing (and cheap) veggie restaurants and drinking some pretty great coffee at Akha Ama Coffee
that rivals some places in London. More on food later in our next post!
We had out-of-this-world Thai massage at Lila Thai Massage
in a gorgeous venue with lovely customer service (apart from reception so don’t let that put you off). We went to the Tha Phae Gate location but there are a few others scattered around town. They run an incredible programme aimed to support women ex-offenders by offering massage training and jobs afterwards.
The massage was so good – it’s one of the things you have to try if you go there; I love cracking my joints and the masseuses lived up to the hype. The way the stand on your back and try to crack each individual vertebrae or the way they put you in a wrestling-like lock to crack your limbs – it’s lovely!
We were torn between going to an elephant sanctuary and giving it a miss. We did loads of research into this as we’re heartbreakingly aware that some elephants are mistreated in Thailand. If you’re thinking of booking tickets to an elephant show or elephant ride please, please look into this further and perhaps reconsider.
After reading many blog posts on ethical tourism and many reviews, we decided to book a day trip and see for ourselves. We went to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
. We read even better reviews for Elephant Nature Park
but by the time we decided to go, it was fully booked.
The elephants seemed to be treated well and didn’t seem or be afraid of their keepers (although I’m not an elephant expert so hope that was the case).
The day was planned to feed and bathe the elephants and there was no riding. The keepers did limit the time we spent with elephants especially if they saw them getting tired. I hope in the future this will be even further limited and I wish that we weren’t allowed so close to the elephants as I think being surrounded by a group of loud people with cameras isn’t what they should be used to. However, taking care of rescue elephants isn’t cheap and with places like this one relying on tourism and donations, it’s not an easy choice or a good business move for them to make just yet.
I read that tourists refusing to go on rides and shows has encouraged more places to end these practices or transform into sanctuaries so I am hopeful that as long as we continue to be aware and refuse harmful practices things will continue to improve.
I loved the fact that I got to see the elephants, I think they are such noble creatures! After the initial hype I took a step back and realised that the whole experience is still aimed at tourists and not for the elephants; however, considering those lovely beings were not forced to carry logs or tourists I think the elephant tourist industry in Thailand is on the right track. Supposedly the best experience for the elephants and yourself is to book a whole week (or more) to volunteer at a sanctuary so that they get used to you and you can also genuinely help out.
Please do not go on hikes which offer elephant rides and if you see businesses that offer this ‘experience’ please tell them it’s not okay; businesses will follow the customer demand and elephant abuse will be driven out.
Overall Chiang Mai was the peaceful retreat we were hoping for and we would go back in a heartbeat! What were your favourite things to do if you visited Chiang Mai or what would you like to do if it’s on your bucket list?